Cardiovascular disease and omega-3s: Prescription products and fish oil dietary supplements are not the same

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Abstract

Background and purpose:

Despite achievement of optimal low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) control with statin therapy, patients with elevated triglycerides (TGs) and residual cardiovascular risk are commonly encountered in clinical practice.

Methods:

We present information from completed and ongoing clinical trials examining Rx omega-3s for TG-lowering and omega-3 dietary supplements to highlight important differences affecting patient management for nurse practitioners.

Conclusions:

Rx omega-3s demonstrate robust reductions in TGs and may have a role in reducing residual cardiovascular risk. Products containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may raise LDL-C and should not be substituted for Rx eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-only icosapent ethyl, which does not raise LDL-C. Omega-3 dietary supplements (e.g., fish oils containing EPA and DHA) may be used for general health promotion; however, they are not regulated as medications and concerns regarding quality, purity, safety, and variability of content exist. It is important to advise patients that omega-3 dietary supplements are not medications and should not be substituted for Rx omega-3s. Large-scale cardiovascular outcomes studies are underway for Rx omega-3s in statin-treated patients.

Implications for practice:

Nurse practitioners can take an active role in reducing residual cardiovascular risk and educating patients about important differences between Rx omega-3s and fish oil supplements.

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